Saturday 31 August 2002

Down with the arts establishment

One of my favourite books by the great economist Ludwig von Mises is The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality. Mises explains that highly educated intellectuals often resent capitalism precisely because it rewards those who satisfy the masses rather than catering for the elite. Therefore:
He (the intellectual) indicts society's economic organisation, the nefarious system of capitalism. But for this unfair regime his abilities and talents, his zeal and his achievements would have brought him the rich reward they deserve.

It is the same with many lawyers and teachers, artists and actors, writers and journalists, architects and scientific research workers, engineers and chemists. They, too, feel frustrated because they are vexed by the ascendancy of their more successful colleagues, their former schoolfellows and cronies.

In today's Scotsman, there is a fascinating profile of the Fife artist, Jack Vettriano. None of Vettriano's works are owned by any public institution in Britain other than the municipal gallery in Kirkcaldy. He is rejected by the arts establishment. So, is this artist a failure? Well, this week four of his paintings were sold for £100,000. He earns another £250,000 per year in royalties from Britain's best-selling fine-art print. The arts establishment clearly resents commercial success. Good luck to Jack, I say. He is earning an honest penny (lots of them!) in the free market. Let's hope he is laughing all the way to the bank. This is far more honourable than living off the taxpayer like his denigrators.

Incidentally, Vettriano, a successful capitalist, should be proud that his works are appreciated in Kirkcaldy which just happens to be the hometown of Adam Smith!

Friday 30 August 2002

Unexpected radicalism

The Confederation of British Industry is not usually associated with radical thinking. I was pleased to read that CBI boss, Digby Jones, will have some interesting things to say about Scotland's economy at the CBI dinner here tonight. From the interview:
He added that business in Scotland has now lost patience with Mr McConnell’s failure to create a low-tax economic environment for business - and may move against the First Minister during next year’s Holyrood election.
In the full interview in the printed version of the Scotsman he says:
...anything that would lead to a Scottish Executive saying "I'm spending your money, not money that someone else has given me" would lead to more resposibility.
So now business leaders are joining the call for fiscal responsibility with the Scottish parliament having to collect its own taxes instead of relying on handouts from London. Scotland's parliament is up for re-election next spring. Fiscal responsibility looks like becoming the main issue and that spells danger for the Labour/Liberal coalition.

Thursday 29 August 2002

Jack Straw condemns the Scottish government

Our beloved foreign secretary was on the Channel 4 news a short while ago. He mocked Iraq on the grounds that "one part of the government says one thing and another part says something else." Well, well. It's exactly the same here in Scotland where cabinet ministers are allowed to campaign against the policies of their own government. I hope that Jack Straw is not going to call for a joint US/UK military strike on Scotland but a "regime change" would be most welcome.

The Johannesburg gathering

The Glasgow Herald prints a photograph of a local street vendor demonstrating outside the UN summit. This sensible gentleman has a badge bearing the message: "Freedom to Trade." Why isn't he inside the hall instead of the 60,000 useful idiots? The Herald also has a "Summit Briefing." I was pleasantly surprised to see mention of Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist. Understandably, this section of the briefing was headed: "Contrary View." The heading of the previous part of the briefing which gave the UN position was: "The Facts"!

Wednesday 28 August 2002

He changed his mind - or did he?

Over on Samizdata, Brian Micklethwait writes about John Gray, the former libertarian and now collectivist. Earlier this year, I attended a talk given by Gray to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh. After his speech, I spoke to him at length until the meeting's chairman insisted on introducing Gray to other guests. Mr. Gray recalled his libertarian period with enthusiasm but seemed completely unable to explain his change of heart. The only vague explanation offered was that people couldn't cope with freedom. As Brian Micklethwait suggests, John Gray is an incorrigable pessimist. That I can understand but it's no reason to give up the fight for liberty.

Labour's lackeys

It appears that Scottish Enterprise (sic) is using taxpayers' money to protect itself from Tory criticism. All the more reason to abolish this monstrous part of the Scottish corporate state.

Tuesday 27 August 2002

Government environmental scandal

It seems as though the US Forest Service has turned down offers of Russian help in fighting the massive fires in the western states. The IL76 is the world's largest water bomber. But:
District IX FEMA director Buddy Young went to the fire and publicly announced, "You will not bring the Russian planes in here: We're not having any Russians coming here and fighting our fires."
I wonder what would happen if some of the folks who have lost their homes were to sue the Forest Service. Don't hold your breath.

Yellow bear beats red man!

Those of us of a certain age will recall watching Sooty on television early on Saturday evenings. (Sooty is the small, yellow, intelligent-looking guy second from the bottom). Well, an opinion poll has placed Sooty fourth as the people's choice for head of state. The Queen comes in as our first preference but poor old Tony Blair is an unlucky number thirteen. Apparently, "Sooty won votes because, as a puppet, he was perceived as being more honest than politicians." As a puppet! Surely, Sooty is real; it's the politicians who are the puppets.

Monday 26 August 2002

The Scottish economy

This analysis of the Scottish Economy makes depressing reading. The spokesman for the Federation of Small Business Scotland is correct to point out that business red tape is imposed on us by Westminster and Brussels rather than by Holyrood. Nevertheless, we must ask why Scottish growth is consistently below the UK average. To some extent the answer lies in Scotland's declining population compared with England's rising numbers which are boosted by sizeable immigration.

But over on the Daily Mail, Tim Luckhurst suggests that the lack of entrepreneurship in Scotland is cultural:

The problem is the culture of contemporary Scotland, not the attitudes of modern Scots (many of whom excel outside Scotland). If we are honest, we all know what that culture means. It is defined by a bloated public sector in which respect for red tape, and deference to authority, take precedence over any notion of ambition or true public service. So vast is that state monopoly over wealth and power that it creates an atmosphere closer to the one that prevailed in communist Eastern Europe than the vibrancy of an ambitious modern nation.
I think that Luckhurst is correct. That is why I support calls for full fiscal freedom - all taxes being set and collected here with an agreed sum sent to London to cover items such as defence. If we count all revenues and expenditures, it looks as though Scotland has a balanced budget but Scotland's politicians have no reason to think in financial terms under the present arrangements. This lack of accountability feeds through into the general population creating a non-entrepreneurial society. It's time for a change.

Sunday 25 August 2002

Tranzi Delenda Est

According to James Bennett, the cultural and political differences between "ordinary" Europeans and Americans are not as great as we have been led to believe:
Rather, it reflects the fact that a relatively narrow political-intellectual class has come to hold power in many of the industrialized democracies outside of the United States, devoted to an ideology dubbed "transnational progressivism" by Hudson Institute researcher John Fonte.
I suspect that the Tranzis can be defeated. It may seem that they dominate Europe at the moment but as Bennett says:
This ignores the fact that this supposed consensus is actually quite thin. In fact, public opinion in most of the rest of the Anglosphere tends to track American opinion closely on most of the issues that supposedly reflect a values gap between America and the world.

Friday 23 August 2002

Rising EU expenditure

It's all explained here.

Scottish Tories

Bill Jamieson has much to say about the sad state of the Scottish Conservatives. In today's Scotsman, he writes:
On the economy, there has been no cutting Conservative attack on the arrival of formal recession, still less a coherent set of policies and proposals to create a better climate for business formation and growth in Scotland.
Instead of a robust Tory critique of the Scottish economy we find that:
All the opposition running has been made by Andrew Wilson, the economy spokesman for the SNP. In combination with Jim Mather at Business for Scotland, he is at least putting up a credible alternative and a platform for business support.
Over on Business AM (registration required), we read:
A small but growing band of Tories, mainly free-market thinkers from the Tuesday group, are seeking to convince their colleagues of the need for full tax powers.

The (Tory) MSPs Brian Monteith and Murdo Fraser are leading members and both favour a Scotland of low business and consumer taxes.

Business AM goes on to say that Andrew Wilson of the SNP has tried to get the Tories to join him in a cross-party low tax campaign but without success so far. There is a gap in the political market in Scotland for a low tax party. The Tories should note Jamieson's last paragraph:
Without change, and change soon, these questions will resolve themselves into a single fundamental one - wanted on the Right: a new party.

Thursday 22 August 2002


I suggest that everyone reads this article.

Another letter in the Herald

This one proclaims:
The biggest crime in the UK today is tax evasion. The higher earners who can employ accountants tend to pay only a fraction of the income tax they are liable for.
The writer clearly doesn't understand the difference between tax evasion, which is illegal, and tax avoidance - arranging one's affairs within the law so as to minimise one's tax liability - which is perfectly legitimate. It is the latter for which accountants offer help. If the writer had used a more precise term, say, Chartered Accountant, I suspect that he could be sued for libel. And who is the writer of this letter?

It's Bill Miller, Member of the European Parliament!

You couldn't make it up!

A letter in today's Glasgow Herald starts off:
As authors of the academic report for the Scottish Socialist Party's Scottish service tax proposals...
Now, the Scottish Socialists are not stealth-tax-and-regulatory Tranzis of the Blair and Brown variety. No, these guys are the real McCoy. I quote from their manifesto:
The SSP is comitted to building a new, democratic socialist Scotland which will stand up (sic) the forces of globalisation, privatization (sic - note the US globalised spelling!) and capitalism. In the meantime we will fight for: * The bringing back into public ownership - under democratic workers' and community control and management - those industries, services and utilities privatised over the past 20 years. * The extension of public ownership to include other key sectors of the economy including North Sea oil, the big banks and financial institutions, and the major construction, transport, and manufacturing companies. * Confiscation of the assets of any company that pulls out of Scotland in search of more profitable environments; and legislation to force these companies to provide redundancy payments equivalent to two years salary to allow a reasonable time frame for retraining and redeployment. * The replacement of unelected boards of directors with democratically elected boards, made up of representatives of the workforce and the wider public.
So who are the authors of the pro-SSP academic report? Both are from Paisley University. The second name is Professor Mike Danson. The first:

Geoff Whittam senior lecturer in entrepreneurship!

Wednesday 21 August 2002

Britain's obsession with class

According to this, the proportion of British people who are "working class and proud of it" has increased from 51% to 68% since 1994. The MORI opinion pollsters say that only half of us are working class. Meanwhile, Joe Ashton, a former Labour MP, thinks that Cherie Blair is working class. I detect much confusion here.

I can think of three ways of describing "class".

The Marxist Way:

Those who live off capital are the exploiting class. The rest are working class, whether they work "by hand or by brain". By this definition, Cherie Blair, an extremely rich lawyer, is working class and exploited by my mother who lives off savings earned by my father through a lifetime of hard work. Marxism is, of course, nonsense and has been fully refuted by the Austrian School of economics.

The British way:

Social background is the key. Members of the aristocracy are the upper class. Middle class people wear suits and work in offices, own their own homes, stay at school until aged 18, have professional or academic qualifications and speak grammatically or at least exhibit some of these characteristics. The working class are to be found in factories, rent their homes, don't value education and speak "differently". Using these definitions, Cherie Blair is clearly middle class.

Well, of course it's not quite that simple nowadays. Most people are homeowners, albeit with mortgages. Half of children here in Scotland go on to higher education and when I lived in east London the blokes in the pub wearing jeans were City bankers and the ones in suits worked at the docks. The British definitions of class are now quite meaningless. I propose a "third way".

The libertarian way:

Credit for the idea of libertarian class analysis goes to Franz Oppenheimer. He writes:

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man, requiring sustenance, is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others. The State is an organization of the political means. No State, therefore, can come into being until the economic means [private sector] has created a definite number of objects for the satisfaction of needs, which objects may be taken away or appropriated by warlike robbery.

This libertarian view of class is the only one that makes sense. Those who work in the free market are, well, working class. Those who live through the state - as public sector employees or as welfare recipients - are exploiters. They are the true ruling class and Cherie Blair is at the very pinnacle of that class.

Tuesday 20 August 2002

Here comes the judge

Aye, it's time to privatise the legal system!

Another political boob

At a time when the Scottish economy has gone into recession, it's good to read that our politicians have their priorities right.

Monday 19 August 2002

The pension scam

John Birkett's letter tells us that the "retirement" package given to Scotland's senior civil servant would require a pension fund of £1,500,000. Sir Muir Russell is not actually retiring but is to become the new head of Glasgow University from which he will no doubt obtain another tax-funded pension.

Mr Birkett asks whether the Scottish Executive has set aside the necessary £1,500,000. No, of course not. Mr Birkett correctly suggests that future taxpayers will have to cough up. The next generation of taxpayers will also have to pay for the unfunded state pension liabilities of an ever ageing society not to mention the coming bailout of the bankrupt continental pension schemes. That's why they want us in the Euro.

The green scam

In his Monday article, George Kerevan writes sensibly about the extraordinary gathering of 60,000 "utopians" about to take place in Johannesburg.

Mr Kerevan also tells us that Professor Arthur Herman sees the Cold War as having been:

a contest between the Scottish Enlightenment and the French Enlightenment.
and that the Scots won!

Back on the environment question, George thinks that the world will face problems with fresh water supplies. We in Scotland have solved the problem of finding enough water - especially this "summer" - but our Stalinist water industry hasn't quite managed the quality thing.

More doctors, please

Katie Grant despairs of the all must have prizes exam culture

Ms Grant says:

But leaving that aside, we do need to look at simplifying the exam system and reinstating the basic principles of pass and fail.
Pass and fail! That's divisive. It's socially excluding. Who could want such a thing? (Actually the answer to this question is in the previous post.)

I have a better idea. Every newborn child in Scotland should be given a PhD, signed by "education" minister Cathy Jamieson. All teachers can be fired; the rest of us can enjoy a huge tax cut. School buildings could be used as places where computerphobes can work out their anger. Oh, sorry. That's happening already.

The real enemy

Thanks to David Carr on Samizdata for the link to the John Fonte essay. David's term "Tranzis" is perfect.

Saturday 17 August 2002

Is it all about oil?

Here is an interesting analysis of the Middle East situation from the perspective of someone "down south". No, not England. Dixieland!

By the way, I hope that the authorities are keeping an eye on the North Sea oil rigs in these troublesome times.

US elections

It is being suggested that Hilary Clinton is planning to run for the Presidency. We have been warned!

Friday 16 August 2002

The Price of Non-Failure

Here is another article by fellow Edinburgh blogger Roland Watson.

Gavin Esler, Europe and globalisation

Over on Samizdata, David Carr quotes James Bennett on The Anglosphere:
As always, the biggest problem is the inherent structural one implied in Blair's strategy: the assumption that by integrating more completely into the European Union, Britain is also serving America's interests by being a bridge between the two continents. This is not an eccentric position; it has been the standard assumption of the American foreign policy establishment from the end of the Second World War. It is, however, wrong. Where it fails is the assumption that Europe as a whole and America are sufficiently alike that their interests will naturally be aligned.
But in The Scotsman Gavin Esler doesn't quite get it. He writes:
for 50 years successive US presidents have wished Britain to have an increasingly close relationship with Europe.
True, but the Europhiliac Esler seems to be quite unaware that the US is now having doubts about the EU project and almost certainly welcomes British caution.

Mr Esler can't get his head around globalisation either. How about this:

But if prosperous Australia has serious worries about being excluded from rich markets in Europe, you can understand why much poorer African and Asian countries conclude that globalisation, the expansion of the European Union and of the North American Free Trade area are part of a rich person’s conspiracy to keep them poor.
Eh. The expansion of the EU is not about "globalisation" but protectionism. I suggest that Mr Esler reads The Race to the Top: the Real Story of Globalization by Tomas Larsson to find out why globalisation is good for most people in most countries.

In the meantime, can we please not have Mr Esler as the next presenter of Newsnight?

The King is dead. Long live the King

When I lived in Prestwick, a classmate dated the daughter of a US Air Force officer based at the airport. When Elvis visited Prestwick my friend was invited to the US base to see the King. And what did the rest of us think? We were as jealous as hell!

Thursday 15 August 2002

And now, an alternative to television

A warm welcome to CrozierVision, a new blog from Patrick Crozier.

Ryanair's new base

As a former Prestwick resident, I am pleased by this news. I don't approve of £2 million of taxpayers' money being used but I believe that the same was on offer at the rival sites. I noticed that government ministers were claiming credit for this development yesterday - before Ryanair had made the announcement. Prestwick airport was saved from oblivion by local entrepreneurs - and by Ryanair - not by politicians.

Why the Tories are losing

At this stage in the electoral cycle the Tories should be ahead in the polls. The report mentioned here explains why they are getting nowhere. Note the risible Tory response:
A Tory spokesman last night declined to comment on Mr Darwall’s report, but party insiders insisted Mr Duncan Smith and his senior advisers were not concerned by the criticism. One said: "Mr Darwall clearly hadn’t read or listened to what Iain has had to say about the direction of the party before he wrote his discussion paper."
The report's author has obviously "listened to what Iain has had to say" but found it wanting. A principled low-tax and low-regulation party could annihilate Blairism.

Unintended consequences

This article says sensible things about Scotland's new "right to buy" proposals:
Let’s be perfectly clear. In the real world, if a landlord wishes to sell a farm, in 99 per cent of cases he sells it to the existing tenant. They strike a deal between themselves and get on with life.

But what is shattering confidence among the landlords is the risk assessment process, which concludes that there is a distinct possibility that the right being proposed could suddenly extend to an "absolute" right to buy, even when the landlord has no intention of selling. Ross Finnie says that is not on his agenda. That may be so, but there is no shortage of zealots who have it on their agendas and the minister cannot guarantee it will not happen.

The proposed legislation has already resulted in land being let only for short-term periods. The rot has already set in.

Whenever politicians interfere with the market process we get chaos and all too often the opposite of what the meddlers intend. Why can't they read Adam Smith?

Wednesday 14 August 2002

Business news coverage

The writer of this letter is absolutely correct. Radio and television treat business as a minor matter of no great interest to "normal" people.

Tuesday 13 August 2002

Youth crime

Only a few days ago, vandals burned down a university building in Edinburgh. Now, a school has been vandalised causing £200,000 worth of damage. In Glasgow, gangs are no longer satisfied fighting one another but attack pensioners. In the Daily Mail, Allan Massie says that: "There is no easy answer." Well, of course there is but it would offend "liberal" sensitivities. The "three strikes and you're out" laws dramatically cut crime in New York. Better still, make criminals fully compensate their victims.

Wrong way?

I suspect that this woman was driving on the correct side of the road. Whenever I've been to France, everyone else seems to drive on the wrong side!

Monday 12 August 2002

An "assorted nutter" responds

In today's Monday Diary in Business AM, Dominic Prince explains why the Euro is no big deal.

As he says:

It's a very simple system, too. You go into a shop, order your goods and pay for them in euros - not Lira.... and it seems to work very well. The assorted nutters of the eurosceptic persuasion should go and see the euro in action.
Ah, so that's all there is to it. The fact that the euro is a political project doesn't matter. A single European interest rate would have no negative consequencies for the UK. Having a currency which fluctuated more than now against the dollar is irrelevant. Bailing out the bankrupt continental state pension schemes will be wonderful.

But there is a catch, it seems:

Last year, we were spending an average of £30 for lunch for four. The same lunch for the same four people has inexplicably risen to £50. But this has nothing to do with the euro and everything to do with opportunism, or capitalism, as we economists like to call it.
It's at times like this that I appreciate postings such as this one from Vangel Vesovski. Note point 4: "Most economists should be working in McDonalds. The only ones who are close to describing reality are the Austrian school. If you want to understand, read Mises or Rothbard."

Exactly. The EU is not a capitalist project. The euro is not a capitalist currency. Under a true capitalist monetary regime - based on gold and silver - Italian dinners would not suddenly increase from £30 to £50 but would actually decline gradually in price year after year. Mr. Prince has some serious thinking to do if he wants to understand both the euro and capitalism.

Sunday 11 August 2002

Big brother again

How on earth would we cope if we didn't have politicians to tell us when to move indoors?

Scottish taxation

The question of who levies taxes in Scotland is not going to go away. According to a new poll, 70% of Scots now think that taxes should be set and collected by the Scottish parliament and not by Westminster. Last week, a leading Tory MSP called for "full fiscal freedom" which is the term used to denote devolution of tax powers. Now, I favour as little taxation as possible but the spendthrifts in the Scottish parliament will not mend their ways until they can be held fully responsible for their profligacy. The Labour party dominates Scotttish government, local and national. Why is it so scared of financial accountability?

Saturday 10 August 2002

The real reason...

...why Labour wishes to reduce the voting age is political self-interest.

The pension crisis has made us more aware that we live in an ageing society. Most people - except those paid by the state - see through the errors of socialism as they get older. Left wing parties need to counter this by reducing the voting age to create a new supply of supporters. It is no surprise to read that the Illiberal Democrats and the SNP have already spoken out in favour of reducing the voting age - they support as much state expansion as does Labour, if not more. At least the SNP seems to realise that there should be some connection between taxation and voting. OK then, let people vote at sixteen as long as voting is confined to taxpayers. There is no reason why government employees - our servants - should be allowed to decide how much of the people's money they can grab.

Friday 9 August 2002

A response to the pessimists

Robert Locke has written a response to John Derbyshire's pessimistic prognostications that I mentioned here last Sunday.

Another new Scottish political website

Neil Jamieson has launched Scottish Parliament Watch, a "public participation and e-democracy watchdog and ideas body." Judging by this article, Mr. Jamieson is thinking along the right lines.

As he says:

What is needed is no less than a new culture conducive to the creation of greater and more broadly earned national prosperity, and a transformation in national attitudes to wealth generation.

Financial independence?

Brian Monteith, the Tory MSP and education spokesman, has suggested that his party will support Scottish fiscal independence within the next two years. I certainly hope so. The Scottish parliament will only act responsibly when it has to live within its own means and not rely on London handouts.

Thursday 8 August 2002

Big Brother

Europe's biggest CCTV system has been installed in Fife. It's all very well catching criminals, but not too much seems to happen to them thereafter. All criminals should be made to fully compensate their victims and also pay the appropriate cost of police and court time.
Biased BBC web site

I have posted my first message on this new web site. The BBC's treatment of the news about Scotland's recession is shameful.

Wednesday 7 August 2002

Money: the root of all confusion?

So Roberto Cercelletta has been arrested for taking money from the Trevi fountain. I understand that the money was meant to go to charity and so it should. But Cercelletta had been collecting the coins for 34 years before the Rome police decided to act. Besides, it's not as if he were some kind of counterfeiter, hugely increasing the money supply, causing a crack-up boom which led to a stock market crash and the destruction of the savings of millions. No, Cerecelletta was merely recirculating part of the already existing money supply. Had be been a real counterfeiter like, say, Alan Greenspan, he would have got a knighthood!

No more shame and guilt

Here is a deeply shocking announcement from Kirk Elder.

Mr. Elder's reference to Peter Mandelson's "accidental outing" by Jeremy Paxman is interesting. A short time ago, my mother phoned me to ask if I had seen Newsnight the previous evening. I had not. "Didn't you see what he did to wee Charlie?" Now Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, isn't exactly "wee", at least not horizontally, but my mother - a lifelong Tory activist - was outraged that Paxman had insulted wee Charlie by publicly suggesting that he drank too much whisky. And this a few days before his wedding. "I'll never trust that Paxman again," she said.

There again, perhaps Paxman and Kennedy were acting in collusion in a cunning plot to attract Tory ladies to the Lib Dems.

Tuesday 6 August 2002

A public service announcement

I would like to draw your attention to a new web site, Biased BBC, which has been launched by Peter Cuthbertson of Conservative Commentary. This new site is established with the purpose of reporting and exposing the bias within BBC news programmes, dramas, documentaries, web sites and other BBC productions towards big government, higher taxes, the Labour Party, the European Union and the euro.

I'm sure that this will become a very busy site indeed.

Monday 5 August 2002

Nice one Jimmy

Jimmy Reid's articles are often full of socialist nonsense. Today, however, he has some sensible things to say about Ireland, civil liberties and race.

Our wonderful tourist industry

I drove 140 miles today to visit my mother who lives in the Lake District. The weather was perfect. We went out for a tour round Bassenthwaite Lake and came across The Wheatsheaf Inn. A sign outside proclaimed: Open All Day. Another said: Bar Meals. I helped my mother very slowly - she uses a walking stick - into the pub garden where several people were enjoying lunch. I went inside to order. "Sorry, guv, no more lunches. It's after 2." I explained that it had taken about ten minutes to get my mother from the car to the table and all we wanted was a sandwich. "If you come back at 6, we can serve dinner." Thanks, but no thanks.

This is an area totally dependent on tourism and which was devasted by foot-and-mouth disease last year. I recall seeing local representatives on television calling for government aid. I'm opposed to government bail-outs, but I wished the area well.

Now, I think that some of them deserve to go bust. What sort of businessperson is unable to make a sandwich for my mother at five minutes after two in the afternoon at the height of the tourist season?

Sunday 4 August 2002

Pessimistic thoughts

Over on Samizdata, David Carr defends his renowned pessimism by posting this John Derbyshire article. Sad to say, I fear that Messrs. Carr and Derbyshire are correct. A few minutes ago, I logged on to a web news service. The first four items were:
11 killed in Israel.

Bush ready to declare war.

Man with razor blades in shoes arrested at Seattle airport.

China protests against new American Act that regards Taiwan as an ally.

Have a nice day.

Global warming or hot air?

Scotland's recent weird weather is caused, say some, by global warming. Others disagree.

The director of the PA Weather Centre dismissed the suggestion that global warming was responsible. The Met Office says :

The weather this year has been a bit of a mixed bag but that's just one of those things.....It's not what we would call freak weather.
But professor of environmental change at Edinburgh University, Sarah Metcalfe, proclaims:
The patterns of weather have been consistent with those predicted by global warming

I'd go along with the weather professionals, not the "environmental change" professors.

Today, there's no rain, no clouds but thousands and thousands of tourists.


The dominance of London is a major cause of so many of the UK's problems. John McTernan is quite right to point out how condescending are the "metropolitan" media elite when they deign to report on or, horrors, actually have to visit the "provinces." But McTernan is wrong to suggest more public investment in London. It has too much already. In the UK, the central government collects and allocates 87% of all "public" spending. In the US, it's a mere 18%. Our EU neighbours typically collect around 50% at the centre. London's dominance is not the result of market forces. Britain's unique degree of government centralisation at one end of a long, narrow country harms all of us. The proper libertarian solution is to cut out at least 90% of government activities. If we won't do that, let's move the capital to Glasgow.

Thursday 1 August 2002

Another very good question

Is the EU a continuation of the USSR?

Food aid

Dr Arthur Ballantyne's letter asks some good questions about famine relief.

The struggle continues

I have recently been reading Spain: a History, edited by Raymond Carr.

In the mid-nineteenth century, political battles in Spain were:

fought between the conservative wing of the anti-Carlist coalition, the "men of order" who came to form the Moderate party, and the "defenders of liberty", the Progressives.
We then learn that:
The bible of Progressives was Florez Estrada's Course of Economic Policy, a regurgitation of the works of Adam Smith and his followers. To believers in the virtue of competition, the great defect of the Old Regime was the lack of a free market in land.
Absolute property rights were introduced by the Progressives, with rents set by the market. To complete the market economy, the monopoly of guilds was abolished.

The Democrats, on the other hand:

demanded universal male suffrage, a distribution of rural land to the dispossessed, and the legalisation of workers' associations to fight employers.
Carr then observes:
The Progressives were Anglophiles, admirers of Bentham and Adam Smith. The Moderates were Francophiles, who saw in French administrative centralism an instrument to destroy the Progressives' hold over local government.

Well, well. A hundred and fifty years later and the same divisions still exist in Europe.

Defeat for the people, victory for the state

I'm not at all surprised to learn that the self-governing primary school in Dunblane has been taken back into political control. The "philosophical convictions" of the parents count for nothing. Over on The Scotsman, the teaching union boss is quoted as saying:
Parents may or may not have been content, but the fact is it (the school) was operating in a limbo.

All must be equal. All must have prizes. All must be ruled by big brother.